How to Select the Right HVAC Program Near Hamilton Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Hamilton AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Hamilton Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Hamilton AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Hamilton AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Hamilton and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
HVAC Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Hamilton AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Classes
As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Hamilton AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Hamilton AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Hamilton AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Hamilton AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Hamilton AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Hamilton AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Hamilton AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Finding the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick an HVAC school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Hamilton AL.